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Becoming Agile

IraLaefsky (1643065) writes | about 5 years ago

Books 0

IraLaefsky writes "The appropriately titled, Becoming Agile: In An Imperfect World, by Greg Smith and Ahmed Sidky offers a realistic path to the family of Agile practices which have become prevalent in software development in the last few years. This family of approaches to software development has been widely adopted in the past decade to replace the traditional Waterfall Model of software development, described in a 1970 article by Winston W. Royce "Managing the Development of Large Software Systems" . The Waterfall Model stressed rigid functional and design specification of the program(s) to be constructed in advance of any code development. While the this methodology and other early formal tools for Software Engineering were infinitely preferable to the chaos and ad-hoc programming-without-design practices of early systems, these first tools ignored the fallibility of initial interviews used to construct initial design and often resulted in massive time and cost overruns. The Agile methodologies which are described in this text stress an iterative approach to software development, with the continuous involvement of users (or user surrogates). These iterations consist of several week periods (to at most two month intervals) where a concise partial design requirement, story, is translated to a complete executable version of the program which can be demonstrated to users, for their immediate and anticipated criticism and controlled feature addition. These practices have undergone various codifications since the Agile Manifesto of 2001. Among the more popular Agile Menthodologies are Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal Clear and Scrum. The underlying philosophy and varieties of Agile Development Methodologies are well summarized in the Wikipedia entry on Agile software development available at Agile Software Development.

In describing these development methodologies this practical handbook takes an approach sorely needed in descriptions of Information Technology (IT), it assumes that the purchaser is considering employing the technologies described within the context of a real corporate environment with existing strengths and limitations, an existing approach to the problems addressed, and cultural biases concerning the adoption of new technologies. This approach enables the book to be used as a virtual consultant, taking the experiences described in a case study based upon the authorsâ(TM) advisory experience, and the test of organizational readiness for adoption and needs for customization of the technology as true guideline for introducing these practices in culturally and technology appropriate fashion. During the mid 1980s I served as an internal consultant at a large insurance firm, at the time we were considering the introduction of Expert Systems methodologies into the IT organization. I purchased several handbooks which were intended to introduce this new from academia technology to companies in the financial industries. Most of these books did an adequate job of describing the nature and basis of this technology to IT and Business Analysts trained in existing technology. But, all of the available books failed to chart a path for an IT organization with traditional development practices to successfully migrate to the new technology and appropriately translate this technology for business management. Becoming Agile, introduces a new effective method for describing the risks, benefits and appropriate adaptation of a radically new technology to organizations with existing successful and unsuccessful software development practices and a particular business culture.

Important features of this guide include the Sidky Agile Measurement Index (SAMI) which provides guidelines in moving your particular organization to Agile practices, the non-religious presentation of multiple Agile methodologies and approaches (specifically XP and SCRUM), appendices on organizational readiness assessment, phased development within the Agile context, an overview of the Agile process (suitable for business presentation), and the author forum. The importance of recognizing that new technology methodologies such as Agile Practices must be introduced and carried out in the context of a specific organization, with its own strengths and foibles, cannot be overemphasized. Step-by-step directions and illustrations are given for choosing an appropriate target application for the initial introduction of these methodologies, and each stage of implementation and their possible stumbling blocks are carefully outlined.

That it provides the tools to introduce and adapt these practices in a variety of corporate cultures, with varying degrees of technical sophistication is an invaluable advantage over other Agile texts and will save the organization many thousands of dollars in consulting fees. My only minor nit with this exceptionally fine introduction to Agile Methodologies is that some of the illustration appear to have been formatted in PC-based tools such as VISIO and PowerPoint and require a bit of squinting to study in the smaller book format. With this trivial exception I would award this excellent guide and virtual consultant, an almost perfect nine out of ten review, and recommend it to any organization seeking to intelligently adopt Agile Practices.

The print edition is available at all retailers, while the ebook can be purchased exclusively through the Manning E-Book Storefront."

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